B-Movie Inspirations: Infini (2015)

Every once in awhile, I come across a movie that came in under the radar; that might not get over 60% on Rotten Tomatoes, that I found well written and the story is well told and that I really like.  I am not sure what that says about me but there have been some key movies that have done that for me.  Pandorum is one of those movies.  It was not well received but I really loved this movie – so much so, that I bought the movie.  Event Horizon was another one I liked a lot.  The Outpost is another.  Sunshine is another, however that one has better reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.

I guess the primary reason I like them is that I can draw a lot of RPG inspiration from them.  There are a lot of elements in these movies that I like to put in my movies.  Mystery, horror and “the universe is big” kind of concepts that I really like in my game.  One of my the themes I love to have in my game is bringing the “silly humans/sentients” back down to size by making them see just how short sighted they are.  Space is big!  The universe is infinite!  The moment you think you have it figured out is the moment something new pops up and blows your mind.

The latest gem … ron-gem? … I have found is a movie called Infini.  This movie has all the elements of a good hard science sci-fi that I like, minus the space ships.  They bypassed that budget-crushing aspect by the advent of something called Slipstreaming, which we can get into later.  It is a science fiction horror film with influences of some of my favorite films –  Aliens, The Thing, and a little of the aforementioned Event Horizon.

It is set in the 23rd century where over-population has driven a majority of the people into poverty.  The highest paying jobs are the most dangerous – deep space exploration, mining and search & rescue.  Once of the main reasons it is dangerous is because of the means of transit – a pretty unique plot device that allows them to avoid the use of CGI space ships – called slipstreaming.  The physics around it are a little wonky but from what I understand, it is like the Star Trek concept of trans-warp.  It’s a form of teleportation that allows instantaneous travel – ” a process of turning matter into a data signal and transmitting it to a fixed coordinate anywhere in the known universe.”  People that engage in this form of transit are fitted with a device that is tapped into their neural system called an Apex device.

There is a downside to this.  Apparently, there is a high rate of fatality and “data corruption” in this form of transit.  That does not sound good at all.  That seen from Star Trek: The Motion Picture where the transporter failed comes to mind.  But they imply in the first few scenes after a transit that the corruptions are more mental.  They have to go through immediate screening upon return that measures their mental faculties.  It does not help that when you come out of transit, you are extremely disoriented.

There is another extremely wonky aspect to this plot device that I can not wrap my head around.  I went through Physics II in college and we covered Relativity and Time Dilation. Core to that is that if you go close to the speed of light, time will go differently for you than people on Earth.  While you might see a few minutes, those on Earth will see hours.  Slipstreaming, however, seems to fly in the face of that theory, and change it around.  The other downside of a transit is “extreme time dilation” – you might spend days at your destination but when you return to your point of origin on a few minutes after you left.  I guess that is a downside in that you are aging faster than anyone else.  You would age days at your destination while your wife is aging hours.  But that is kind of the opposite of what the real time dilation theory says.  That is the part I have a hard time wrapping my head around, but I deal with it.  Magic happens!

I am not even going into the “instantaneous” aspect of this. Not really sure how they found a transmission medium that moves faster than light, let alone instantaneous.

With that said, the story starts by establishing the main character Whit, who has one of those Apex devices in his neck and a pretty pregnant wife living in a hole-in-the-wall apartment in some slum on Earth.  Whit has just joined the “West Coast” Search and Rescue teams to earn a little more money now that he is having a kid.  On his first day, sh*t hits the fan after a team is sent to a remote world called Infini and return with some kind of contagion that makes them go mad.  The West Coast center is then put under lethal decontamination (scorched Earth policy) and Whit escape by using a illegal hack box to slipstream to Infini.

The dialogue during these tense moments is a little confusing and I had to go back to the Wiki to get what was going on.  I did not realize it was a contagion until later in the movie.  This could be one reason why it was not received well.

We then switch over to the “East Coast” facility for the search and rescue teams.  They are getting a team ready to go to Infini.  This is when we get the breakdown of what Infini is and why there is a problem.  Infini is a very cold remote mining world way out in the far reaches of the galaxy.  The nature of the mining is vague except that it is a highly volatile material and if any of it reaches Earth, it would be disastrous.  The S&R team is told that they need to rescue Whit but also stop a payload from launching to Earth.  I am not sure if I missed it, but I guess the payload would be transmitted in Slipstream.

When the team arrives at the mining station, they find a frozen-over gory scene.  People frozen in their positions, tearing their own skin off and some displaying odd mutations.  The frozen effects (as well as the gory thawing effects later) were well done for the budget.  It looks like everyone went crazy, slaughtered each other in various sadistic ways until finally someone turned off the life support and froze everyone.

Eventually, they find Whit who survived everything by holding up sealed part of the outpost.  Somewhere along the lines, it was said that you can tell a person is infected by whatever virus is here by the eyes, and apparently Whit is not showing anything of those signs, fortunately.  But he definitely showing signs of mental trauma after being in this chaos for several days.  With Whit found, the group focuses on their next goal – dealing with this mysterious payload of “volatile ore” that is being sent to Earth.

At this point, we enter into the most confusing and techno-babble scene of the movie. It felt like a contrived scene of made-up tension for the sake of creating a suspenseful scene.  Somehow, stopping the payload became a dangerous thing and people had to split up and work together to accomplish this task.  It was very odd, forced and one of the few scenes that did not sit well with me.  However, it quickly leads to the key turning point of the movie that opens Act 2 of the movie.

Little does the team know that there was another survivor – the crazy scientist who set up the whole payload in the first place.  Once they stop the payload, he bursts into the scene wielding a fire axe and long story short – the use of firearms in enclosed spaces is a bad idea when a contagion is transferable by blood splatter. Everyone gets infected by Whit (we think) and chaos ensues.

We follow Whit as he dodges infected team members until he finally finds out the truth about the infection in the stations science lab/med bay.  … {SPOILER ALERT}  … The truth is that Infini is not a planet at all, but a living organism made up of a frozen primordial soup.  In its frozen state, the ooze is not a problem, but thawed, it becomes a cross between the black ooze of Prometheus and the alien organism from The Thing.  The research Whit finds calls it a “perfect organism.”  It can take over an organism, mutate it, replicate organs and eventually completely replace it with a perfect copy (a la Body Snatchers).  Somewhere in the research, it also says that it is searching for a “alpha host,” which in my mind implies that up until this point, all it has found was Beta hosts.

We do finally find out that Whit is infected (and perhaps the alpha host, although they do not explore that aspect much further), and is driven to suicide.   Meanwhile, the ooze is coalescing all around as it thaws, looking more and more like an intelligent being.  The ending is what really makes the movie great, so I won’t give it away.  It leaves you wanting more, for sure.  I got a subtle clue that might have been intentional or I may be concluding too much, but it seems to imply that being infected may cure the slip streaming disorientation or make humans more resilient to interstellar travel.  I may gave away too much there but the ending really makes the movie.

For a role playing game one-shot, this is an incredible inspiration.  It is a great set up, contained within a solid story structure (if not a little cliched) and a great setting.  It is so self-contained and well-integrated that no single aspect of it is more inspiring than the collective whole of the story.  With the feel of Aliens with elements of John Carpenter’s The Thing, you can’t go wrong.

The GM does have to prepare a little for this, however.  The “dungeon” or outpost has to be well mapped out in detail.  When you have an enclosed location like this outpost, the GM needs to know every detail of the location so to convey it to the players properly.  Part of the attraction to this movie was the claustrophobic aspect of it.

Secondly, you creature concept has be fully flashed out. If there are any holes in it from a plot-perspective, the players will find it.  This primordial ooze concept was very cool, but an entire planet of it was mind-blowing.  Imagine the player’s faces when the GM tells them that they are sitting on an entire planet of this stuff.

The core concept of the creature also begs certain questions – How did it get there?  Did someone intentionally freeze it? If so, who?  These kinds of questions can be explored in a “sequel adventure” perhaps.  I have done this before where I let the movie stand as a background to the adventure and let the players pick up where it left off.  The ending leaves a ton of things to explore and a sequel adventure can just about go anywhere.

I highly recommend this movie for your RPG adventure inspiration.  It can be sci-fi or it can be fantasy.  Instead of a planet, it could be an island.

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